A Musical Line

Being Separate in Our Music

What would you say the “spiritual temperature” of our society is today? Is it predominantly Christian? Are the world’s morals becoming more godly? Should Christians emulate the worldly cultural system we find ourselves in or be different—set apart?

The Bible command in 2 Corinthians 6:17 is, “Be ye separate.” When you are separate from the world, you will set boundaries for yourself in regard to your lifestyle which relate to matters of dress, music, and entertainment that differ from the culture around you. It used to be that Christians who believed the Bible’s teaching on being separate from the world all seemed to draw their boundaries at about the same place. It is not that simple today. It seems that the more sensual and ungodly our world has become, the more obscure the boundaries are for Christian separation. Shouldn’t the opposite be true—the more sinful the world, the more a Christian would stand out in contrast and the clearer the boundaries for separation?

As Christians, we desperately need to be careful about where we position ourselves in regard to our lifestyles. Would someone looking at your life determine that you are a Christian by how you look, what you do, where you go, and what you listen to? Would someone looking at your life see enough difference from his own worldly life that he would deduce that he needed a change? For the Christian, old things are passed away, and all things are become new. When you become a child of God, His love and holiness should infiltrate your life. As His holiness and love fill you, worldliness should dissipate.

In regard to music, let’s draw a horizontal line and on the extreme right point of the line place the most non-offensive music possible—a legitimate singing style, either a cappella or accompanied by classically-oriented instrumental music. On the extreme left point of our line let’s place the most worldly music possible—a sensual singing style accompanied by the worst of the heavy metal instrumental music. Then, of course, there is all the vast variety of music in between the two extremes. Christians who believe all music is neutral will believe all music on the line is acceptable. Christians who believe music can carry moral connotations will set boundaries in their musical choices and land somewhere between the extremes. Where would you say you fall on the line in regard to your musical choices? Should a Christian only be concerned about not going “off the deep end” and landing to the extreme left of the musical line? The mature Christian is one who sees how close he can be to Christ, not how worldly he can be without going to the extreme left.

There are legitimate reasons why we land on different places on the line. Age, training, and upbringing all influence the music we gravitate toward. It is also true that personal taste and preference come somewhat into play when selecting the music we use for worship or for enjoyment. We cannot judge because of preference, but I cannot emphasize enough the need to judge our music when it is sensual, regardless of age, preference, or upbringing.

My husband, Ron, was told a story about some unsaved teenagers who went to visit a local church, looking for something to fill the void in their lives. They sat in the back of a church auditorium, and after listening to several Christian rock numbers got up and left. They said that they didn’t come to church to listen to a “poorly done” imitation of secular rock music; they could get the real thing anytime they wanted. They had come to church to get something different.

Is it only the words of our music which should be set apart? Shouldn’t our music be set apart also? The kind of music you listen to tells a lot about you. In the words of an MTV executive: “Music tends to be a predictor of behavior and social values. You tell me the music people like and I’ll tell you their views on abortion…or what their sense of humor is like” (Quentin Schultze and Roy Anker, Dancing in the Dark).

As a composer, I love incorporating new musical ideas. I like to do things in a way that will make people sit up and listen to the message—but I dare not cross into worldliness! I must be extremely careful, because there will be those whom I influence who will follow my lead. For my music standard, I try to be somewhat up to date with my musical writing but not sensual. Using this sensual thermometer gauge is also how I draw the line in determining what I listen to, what I wear, what I watch, where I go, etc.

When given a choice, which side of the musical line should Christians lean to? There is no way to lump together all CCM. But once you start listening to any music with a rock beat or a sensual singing style, where do you draw the line in the music you will or will not listen to?

In my Christian walk I attempt to stay on the conservative side regarding standards. Why do I do this? God says, “Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16).

God also says, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord” (2 Corinthians 6:17).

Some people say, “You have your opinion; I have mine. My opinion is just as good as yours.” I propose that Christians should make popular the saying “God’s preference” instead of “personal preference.”

If music is not neutral and can of itself communicate moral values, then yes, God wants us to set boundaries.

Ephesians 5:10 tells us to prove, “What is acceptable unto the Lord.”

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